The Daily Mail reports a Japanese motorcyclist’s family is suing Tesla, after he was killed by a Tesla Model X in April, 2018.
According to documents filed for the lawsuit, 44-year-old Yoshihiro Umeda was with a group of motorcyclists at the side of the road in Kanagawa, Japan, sorting out the aftermath of a crash. According to the court documents, he was struck by a Tesla Model X, when the car’s driver engaged the autonomous driving system and fell asleep. The Model X had been allegedly following another car, which changed lanes to avoid the earlier crash scene. According to the Daily Mail the court documents state:
The Tesla Model X’s sensors and forward-facing cameras did not recognize the parked motorcycles, pedestrians, and van that were directly in its path, and it continued accelerating forward until striking the motorcycles and Mr. Umeda, thereby crushing and killing Mr. Umeda as the Tesla Model X ran over his body
Umeda’s family says Tesla released self-driving cars to public roads with defective self-driving technology. It will now be up to the court to decide what actually happened and who was, or was not, ultimately responsible.
It’s not the first fatal crash involving a self-driving Tesla. There have been at least four other incidents where the car’s autonomous driving system was accused of being partially responsible, although driver error also played a major part in these incidents and Tesla has always maintained that the self-driving feature requires drivers to maintain vigilance of the road and be able to take over at any time. Umeda’s death was the first fatality involving a motorcyclist; the other deaths were all Tesla drivers.
The implications of self-driving car technology for motorcyclists and other vulnerable road users were debated quite fiercely a few years back, but the buzz seems to have died off in the past few months. Has the media grown tired of it, or have road users simply decided the tech is safe? Whatever the case, this legal battle is going to bring the issue back to the forefront.